Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Grow Sea Oats Grass

By Diane Watkins ; Updated September 21, 2017
Sea oats grass.

Sea oats grass, Uniola paniculata, is found on beach dunes along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in the West Indies. The grass grows well in the salty, windy environment found in these areas. The grass is important because of its ability to establish itself on beach dunes, stabilizing the dune and preventing erosion. Sea oats grass is considered an endangered species in Louisiana and is protected in Florida and Georgia.

Obtain your sea oats from an acceptable source. Wild sea oats are valuable erosion control plants in many states and are protected for this reason. It is illegal to dig up, pick or otherwise disturb sea oats grass in many areas. This includes collecting seeds from wild sources. Plants and seeds can be obtained from native plant nurseries that have permits to propagate them.

Choose a location for your sea oats grass. The grass prefers full or partial sun and moist, fertile, sandy soil. It is tolerant of salt, wind and drought. Allow plenty of room for the establishment of each stand.

Plant your container-grown sea oats grass at any time, but midwinter to early spring is preferred. Bare-root plantings are best planted between November and March.

Dig a shallow hole in the sand. Remove the plant from the container and place it in the hole, aligning the top of the hole with the top of the container soil. Refill the hole with sand. Space the plantings 2 to 5 feet apart. The plants will spread to fill in the spaces.

Fertilize each plant with a slow-release fertilizer tablet. No further fertilization is needed.

Water the new plants. Sea oats grass is resistant to drought, but needs moisture. Water regularly until the plants are established, then gradually taper off watering.

Protect the plants from damage from traffic or mowing.

Control the spreading of sea oats by installing a plastic barrier on the perimeter. Sea oats grass can be invasive, spreading underground by rhizomes. Dig a trench around the plant, staying about a foot away from the roots, and place the plastic barrier in the trench, refilling the trench. The plastic will keep the roots from expanding beyond your planned bed.

Cut the plants to the ground at the beginning of winter. Save the seeds for starting new plants.

Propagate new sea oats plants by starting seeds or by digging up the plants and dividing the roots.


Things You Will Need

  • Sea oats plants or rhizome from an approved source
  • Shovel
  • Fertilizer tablet
  • Plastic barrier

About the Author


Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and Web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.